In Fulton County’s only contested race this November a former county commissioner and a retired state employee are vying for a vacated Fulton County Commissioners seat.
Joe Short and Becky Thatcher are contenders for the position being exited by two-term Commissioner Bill Rufenacht, who decided against seeking another term. Commissioner Jon Rupp, whose term expires Dec. 31, is running unopposed.
A native of Archbold, Thatcher, 66, was a Wauseon resident for 40 years before moving to Franklin Twp. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in business management and a master’s degree in public administration, both from the University of Findlay. Thatcher also earned an associate degree in applied business from Northwest State Community College, where she was named 2003 Distinguished Alumni.
She formerly owned and operated Rossman Meats in Wauseon, and served as an account clerk at the Fulton County office of the Ohio Department of Transportation, and as an unemployment auditor for the State of Ohio Job and Family Services, where she retired.
Though Thatcher has never held political office, she said her educational degrees make her more than qualified to be a commissioner. In fact, she pursued her master’s degree in public administration will the goal of becoming a Fulton County Commissioner. In 2012, she lost an attempt to unseat two-time incumbent Paul Barnaby.
Thatcher said what separates her from others is her ability in retirement to devote her full attention to the office. “I can be a full-time commissioner, and I think that is very important. My other duties are done,” she said. “I think it’s an advantage of the constituents of Fulton County to have a full-time commissioner.”
And while she admits to still learning the processes of the county, she added, “I can do that.”
She would have no set agenda when entering the office, and Thatcher is satisfied with the fiscal responsibility the current commissioners have shown. But she noted that representation on the commission is entirely from the western portion of the county. If elected, that would include herself, but Thatcher insists her interests wouldn’t lie with just that region.
“I’m not beholden to one corner of the county. I just want to make sure that I reach out to the whole county,” she said.
One of Thatcher’s interests includes the current proposal to consolidate emergency medical services under the county. “I just hope to resolve the conflict,” she said. “Everyone wants a piece of the pie, and the pie is only so large. We have to give and take.”
She’s also concerned about the indefinite closing of the Fulton County Senior Center due to the state’s COVID-19 restrictions. “Unfortunately, a lot can’t be done until the pandemic is over,” she said.
And Thatcher would like to see more county roads repaired, although “I think they’re doing what they can with the money that they have.”
County residents have already reached out with their concerns including the increased truck traffic expected around the Delta area due to increased development.
“I’m sure not against development but we need to keep patrolling (there) and keep the laws enforced,” Thatcher said, adding that she fully supports the county’s law enforcement agencies. “It’s just, to be an administrator for the county, I can try to be involved in all areas.”
She has attended commissioners’ meetings since August, and chose to run for that seat rather than pursue another political position “because it makes a larger impact to the whole community, the whole county. I just feel my degree and my experience are the perfect fit for full-time commissioner.”
Thatcher also believes it’s time for a gender change. “It’s 2020…and I just think it’s time for Fulton County to elect a qualified, educated woman,” She said.
Married for more than 48 years to her husband Ken, the couple have two sons who graduated from Wauseon schools and two granddaughters currently in the school system.
The owner of Joe Short Insurance Agency the past 28 years, Archbold resident Joe Short served as a Fulton County Commissioner from 2007-11. Since 2018, he has acted as a German Township trustee. In between those offices, he stepped away from politics to raise his young children.
The 54-year-old Archbold native is a 1984 Archbold High School graduate and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in marketing communications from Ohio State University.
Short said he has served in public office because his parents instilled in him a need to give back to his community. “I’d be willing to help our county stay a great place to live and a great place to raise family,” he said. “I enjoy the challenge of helping organizations in our county move forward, preparing and achieving for future growth. I set goals, and I’m willing to do the hard work to achieve these goals to benefit our county.”
Short said he continued to follow local issues during his time away from office, and still has working relationships with local and national officials. He said his involvement as a township trustee in county regional planning and his past experience researching, applying for, and obtaining grant money for Fulton County will benefit residents.
“With one commissioner retiring, it is essential to have an experienced individual ready to take his place without years to learn the complex government procedures. And I am a person with 10 years of experience and understanding that will work to continually better our community,” he said.
Short said the most pressing issue, “without question,” is the fire departments’ contract renewal with the county for emergency medical services. Directed by the county commissioners, the levy expires in 2021, and rumblings have emerged that some county fire departments are unhappy with negotiations and may want to split from the agreement.
“It is imperative that we have a contract in place to continue the excellent service that has been provided in the past,” Short said. “There have been a lot of issues raised at the meetings but they’ve been how to better the service for the people, both on the commissioners’ side and through the fire chiefs and paramedics.
“It must be a countywide service. There are some issues that need to be resolved, but I don’t know that the exploration of all the options are on the table yet. I cannot make a decision as a commissioner without knowing all the options that are out there. Continued negotiations are important, and I believe we can work some kind of amicable contract out.”
Another issue Short wants to address is an upgrade to the aged six-inch water line between Wauseon and Lyons. Over 30 years old, the line has experienced breakdowns and leaks, and Short said it isn’t sufficient to supply water for additional growth in the area.
“That’s going to be addressed in the next few years,” he said.
He would also like to see continued development on the county’s northeast water line which travels from the Swanton area to Metamora and to the backside of Lyons. Short visited Washington D.C. several times as a commissioner, and procured $3.3 million of the $6.6 million cost for that project.
“The development of that line, I believe, needs to continue,” he said.
Short said during his previous term as a commissioner the county was still struggling financially from the effects of a recession. He said the county’s fiscal health is now far better, thanks to the work of the commissioners during his tenure.
“Things that were put in place when I was in office we are reaping the benefits of today. That’s why our general fund is healthy today,” he said.
Short and his wife, Sheryl, have four children and a grandson.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.